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Artificial intelligence at Tata group companies

Artificial Intelligence Is For Real

Adaption of Artificial Intelligence is underway in Tata companies, with Tia, Cara and Richa leading the way

September 2019     |     1325 words     |     5-minute read

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If you arrived at your workplace using a taxi-hailing or a traffic prediction app, you're likely to have used reasonably advanced machine-learning. When you sit down to work, open your email or an Office application, you're interacting with several algorithms trying to make things easier for you, by anticipating what you would likely do next. When you look up your colleagues and friends using chat tools that prompt words and phrases, you're using artificial intelligence (AI) principles that owe their origins to algorithms that were first developed during the second World War when Alan Turing's team cracked Germany's Enigma code.

Turing went on to work in advanced computing; many of us know him because of the Turing test – an experiment in which he proposed to define a standard for a machine to be called 'intelligent'. The idea was that a computer could be said to 'think' if a human interrogator could not tell it apart, through conversation, from a human being.

Present day machine learning is already a part of our daily lives, where machines constantly interact with us, engage with us and learn from these interactions to persuade, guide or predict, ostensibly to make our personal and professional lives easier and better.

At the Tata group, several companies have taken their first steps towards leveraging AI to achieve efficiency and reduce human time and effort, and yet present themselves in a way that would pass the Turing test comfortably. Some of the key use cases that have been around since early this year are chatbots for human resources (HR), supply chain and marketing, and customer care.

Cara, your friendly HR bot

What do TCSers do when they have a question to ask HR? They ask Cara. Not only does Cara answer simple questions instantly but also addresses semantically difficult questions. For example: "I am based in Delhi, while my project location is Chennai. I want to apply for leave according to the Delhi holiday calendar. Can I do so?" This illustrates Cara's ability to distinguish between queries that are textually similar but semantically different.

Cara was born when TCS' talent engagement team realised it was answering routine queries through emails, phone calls and personal interactions, taking up 40% of its productive time. These interactions were not adding any value; besides, responding quickly wasn't always possible due to availability and time constraints. According to Milind Lakkad, executive vice president & global head — human resources, TCS, "Cara can answer HR policy and process queries anytime, anywhere, thereby saving valuable productive time and effort of our people."

Cara, an outcome of TCS HR's collaboration with research, has been around since early 2018, and has answered more than 200,000 queries so far. She was initially trained with a database of 35,000 queries gathered by various TCS HR teams and continues to learn from the questions asked by TCSers every day, which have touched 650 a day at her peak operational capacity.

Says Mr Lakkad: "We continue to reimagine employee lifecycle processes leveraging our Machine First™ Delivery Model (MFDM™), with machine learning and artificial intelligence, to enhance the employee experience at the workplace. We continue to enhance Cara's capabilities, thereby making it an integral part of our life at work and a strong value proposition for our customers."

Richa helps smoothen the supply chain

Richa works at the procurement division of Tata Steel. She is integrated to SAP and Surround Systems (such as e-Proc and Easy buy) to provide a seamless user experience. Unlike humans, she is available round the clock, to assist vendors and customers making their experience hassle-free and quick; thereby helping everyone on the supply chain ecosystem save time and focus on more value-adding tasks.

Richa, powered by IRA.AI, is possibly the first procurement chatbot in the Indian steel industry and is part of Tata Steel's massive digital-centric business transformation efforts, which kicked off in 2018. She is built on the existing procurement systems already in place at Tata Steel and can assist on a range of workflows and procurement processes.

Richa, however, is only one part of Tata Steel's business transformation programme aimed at achieving over $1 billion EBITDA contribution, of which digitalisation is a significant part.

Sayer, the steering wheel of the future

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) believes that autonomous cars do not necessarily mean the end of the steering wheel. Sayer is JLR's steering wheel of the future which will not only help you drive smoothly, but will also recognise your voice and respond to voice commands. It will go beyond being just a car accessory, to give you entry to JLR's on-demand membership programme that will allow you to own your own Jaguar or share it with others in your community. And yes, it will tell you the weather, organise your travel and pretty much be your companion throughout the day.

JLR has also leveraged AI to counter an affliction faced by over 70% of people – motion sickness. Spencer Salter, wellness technology researcher at Jaguar Land Rover, points out that previously "little has been known about its causes and how to mitigate them".

JLR through its research on motion sickness has created an algorithm that generates a 'wellness score' for each passenger. This can be used to automatically personalise a vehicle's driving and cabin settings to reduce the effects of feeling car sick by up to 60%. JLR has already collected 15,000 miles of motion sickness data and tested the effects caused by performing a task while in transit, such as checking emails. This has enabled the creation of a baseline driving style for self-driving vehicles to work towards minimising the need for steering corrections and the risk of motion sickness.

ignio™ smoothens IT transformation

ignio™ is TCS' award-winning AI solution for the enterprise that enables smarter and faster decision-making to accelerate transformation, improve performance, and predict and prevent problems. In other words, ignio™ binds together data from multiple sources within an organisation's IT infrastructure to map out the interdependencies across infrastructure nodes, application functions, business operations, and more for a complete, business-centric view of the enterprise technology environment.

At present, ignio™ is being implemented in Tata Steel, globally, and Tata Chemicals as part of a much larger digitisation and IT transformation programme. At Tata Steel Europe, ignio™ is already handling 83% of incidents and requests autonomously; it has helped the company reap benefits such as faster turnaround times (98% reduction in lead time to fulfil requests) and eliminating manual errors.

TIA, the personal loan assistant

Tata Capital's TIA, an acronym for Tata Capital Intelligent Assistant, is designed to answer loan-related queries as well as voice-assist a customer's personal loan journey, from logging on, to checking loan eligibility to helping the customer through the loan approval process.

TIA is set to be an industry first – it is the first voicebot assistant in the financial services industry which will have the capability to assist the customer through the full length of the journey, right down to the finish in a few minutes, through voice messaging.

At present, the first edition of TIA is on the Tata Capital website that welcomes you with a polite enquiry and pleasantly takes you through a question and answer journey through various processes in the loan approval journey, such as an EMI calculator or introducing you to different schemes. Since her launch earlier this year, this web version of TIA has seen rapid acceptance by customers and has had more than three lakh interactions. Tata Capital expects this voice equivalent to be a greater success, especially with its ease of interaction and freedom from language restrictions.

And this is just the beginning. Tata Capital is at work, using AI to ease customer journeys, automate back-end functions and provide a whole host of other benefits to the customer by using voicebots.

As Abonty Banerjee, chief marketing & digital officer, Tata Capital, says: "The real deal is to make AI solve real problems and bring efficiency to business."

—Haroon Bijli

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